Dickens Museum captures Christmas spirit with new exhibition

AFP , Wednesday 29 Nov 2017

The exhibition is housed in a Victorian building where the author and his family lived between 1837 and 1840

The outside of Dickens' house in Bloomsbury

The Dickens Museum in London got into the festive spirit on Wednesday, unveiling its "A Christmas Carol" exhibition centred on the novelist's famous tale of Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas.

The book helped "crystallise" the way Britons celebrate Christmas and carried a strong social message after a scathing report on child labour that deeply shocked Charles Dickens, curators said.

The exhibition is housed in a Victorian building where the author and his family lived between 1837 and 1840 -- and where he penned several classics including "Oliver Twist" and "The Pickwick Papers".

The museum holds over 100,000 Dickens-related items include furniture, personal effects, paintings, prints, photographs, letters and manuscripts.

"A Christmas Carol" was written in six weeks in 1843 and is considered a charming tale with a heart-warming ending.

But it is also a story about child labour, at a time when poverty-induced misery had reached record levels -- and had pushed Dickens to put pen to paper, according to the museum's director, Cindy Sughrue.

"It really shocked him and he pledged he was going to do something to highlight the cause and the sentiment that children deserved more than this," she said.

Dickens, who himself was forced to stop attending school and work as a child while his father was imprisoned for debts, consistently took up in his books the cause of the weakest.

"Every work he wrote there was a little bit of his own story and his own experience," Sughrue said, labelling him a "social reform campaigner".

"A Christmas Carol" recounts the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge, a mean-spirited, miserly old man who tries to make the lives of his employees and family miserable.

However, he is visited on Christmas Eve by the spirit of his dead partner, Jacob Marley, as well as the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, which all helps him see the error of his ways.

Cherishing the spirit of sharing and simple pleasures like a fire-side family meal, the story was an immediate success.

Frankie Kubicki, the exhibition's curator, said although Dickens did not "invent" how the British celebrate Christmas, he helped "crystallise it".

"He hits the zeitgeist and the feeling within the 1830s and 40s of a nostalgia for Christmas, of this idea of wanting to celebrate it within a new urban context," he added.

The exhibition, which runs until February 25, also includes costumes of the forthcoming movie "The Man who invented Christmas", which will hit British cinema screens later this week.

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